Tonight I was reading Matthew 9 and the imagery of vv. 9-10 grabbed my attention like never before. In vv. 1-8 Jesus has forgiven a paralytic man for his sins. His opponents can’t believe the audacity of a man who claims to forgive sins, so Jesus challenges them by healing the man and asking whether it is easier to tell someone that their sins are forgiven or to heal their body. In v. 9 it says, “As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man called Matthew, sitting in the tax collector’s booth; and He said to him, ‘Follow Me!’ And he got up and followed Him.” How great is the picture by Terbrugghen (on the right hand side of this post). Jesus points at Matthew, a tax collector, telling Matthew to follow him. Matthew double checks with Jesus: you mean me?
What I greatly enjoy about Matthew 9:9-10 is the scenic transition. It moves from Jesus calling Matthew who is sitting and doing his job to a meal in a house and voilà! the house if full of tax collectors and other “sinners” dining with Jesus.
The narrator doesn’t tell us what happened between Jesus calling Matthew and this dinner party. It doesn’t matter. Jesus calls a despised tax collector to be his disciple and suddenly the Kingdom is embodied in a meal of sinners.
This is a controversial statement, but, I think Jesus is doing more than welcoming sinners here. He made a point of welcoming tax collectors as well. Yea, they were sinners , they were also traitors to Israel, collaborators with the enemy, etc.
It’s not clear to me all of what and why Jesus did this(He could have forgiven them w/o highlighting them as He did Matthew and Zacchaeus). It does make me wonder about nationalism/patriotism though.
Indeed, the tax collectors would have been seen as a group of disloyal compromisers to many of their fellow Judeans, yet here Jesus invites one to be a disciple and suddenly he is feasting with many of them. Makes me wonder what “traitors” I denounce who might be waiting for an invitation to follow Jesus and which of these taboo peoples may be bring a party with them if someone would just tell them Jesus wants them to be his disciple.
Patrick, we don’t know that ..
Follow this reason (I’m going to make some controversial statements of my own).
In 125 BC, John Hyrcanus (a Judean) began a campaign to convert the Idumeans (Edomites) as citizens of the Roman province of Judea to Judiasm. The problem is that the Idumeans vastly out numbered the Judeans.
There were 12 Idumean tribes (never taken to Babylon) who stood by and cheered when their kindred nation (the House of Judah) was taken. There were only 2.5 Judean tribes (Judah, Benjamin, and part of Levi) who had returned from Babylon. Hence Obadiah’s disgust. Obadiah marvelled at how Esau pillaged the House of Judah along with other foreign nations in the time of Judah’s distress ([Oba 1:1-18]). He prophesied against Esau that a day would come when Jacob would again possess its own (and Esau would be stubble:
[Oba 1:16-17] For as you have drunk on my holy mountain, so all the nations shall drink continually; they shall drink and swallow, and shall be as though they had never been. But in Mount Zion there shall be those who escape, and it shall be holy, and the house of Jacob shall possess their own possessions.
He also documented how the Idumeans’ came to possess the heritage that Esau had originally given up to Jacob (the land):
[Oba 1:11:-13] On the day that you stood aloof, on the day that strangers carried off his wealth and foreigners entered his gates and cast lots for Jerusalem, you were like one of them. But do not gloat over the day of your brother in the day of his misfortune; do not rejoice over the people of Judah in the day of their ruin; do not boast in the day of distress. Do not enter the gate of my people in the day of their calamity; do not gloat over his disaster in the day of his calamity; do not loot his wealth in the day of his calamity.
According to Josephus, John Hyrcanus apparently succeeded. This left the House of Judah (“Jews”) a minority of Israelite Judeans and a majority of Edomites called Jews. Accordingly, you see tension throughout Judaism this entire period about what constituted a real Israelite, or a real Judean. This is why.
You see tension between scripture believing, scripture writing factions (such as the Essenes) and scripture wielding/interpreting factions (such as the Temple Pharisees).
It may be true that taxpayers were seen as traitors, but relative to whom? To the temple Pharisees who all held favour with Herod (an Edomite)? It’s not clear they were seen as traitors to anyone but the Edomite elite which doesn’t necessarily make them traitors to Israel.
If you look at Jeremiah’s prophecies about the punishment of the House of Israel and the House of Judah you see Jeremiah proclaiming people to accept their fate (God has ordained this). Those who resisted the first beastly nation perished. Those who accepted it (including Daniel) survived. I would argue that true Israelites did not oppose Rome but realized Rome’s time would come … (whatever the Temple elite thought)
Historically according to the sources we have(Josephus&the bible), the culture had powerful antipathy to all pagans and Romans in particular and for a Jew to help them was awful.
In the Gospels, pagans are referred to as dogs for example, so there’s 2 witnesses to the culture of 2cd temple Judaism relating pagans.
Now, imagine you’re a Jew who is not only helping the Roman pagans, you’re also helping them screw fellow Jews in what seems to them essentially blasphemous(paying taxes to a pagan king) AND you’re skimming off the top to enrich yourself at the society’s expense.
I realize what you pointed out is valid data, but, what they thought and what they should have thought are 2 separate issues.
Patrick, Josephus is too narrow a subset to make such a broad catagorization (lest we commit the ‘Hasty Generalization’ fallacy). Josephus himself says (Life 11-12a) that he deferred to the school of the Pharisees (after having taken an independent route towards discovering his Judaism (having studied with Bannus)) but he makes it clear there was otherwise little agreement between the three main secs (Pharisaism, Sadducaism, Essenism). As a representative Pharisee, Joesphus certainly makes it clear the Pharisee’s were not entirely anti-Rome, but were quite happy to support Roman institutions.
We see some anti-Roman sentiment in Jesus’ disciples initially, but Jesus Himself seems to have been ambivalent towards Rome. In fact, he argued that there was a Kingdom greater than Rome, and that the two should not be confused (the coin was created in the image of Caesar, chief of one of the kingdoms, while the other was created in the image of God). When Jesus spoke directly to Rome’s representative in Judea (in [John 18:36]) He makes it clear, if He (Jesus) wished his servants to fight (Rome) they would, but that was not His will.
To this consider, the Essene’s biggest problem was not Rome (who scarcely warrant a mention in the DSS) but the religious elite who possessed the temple in Jerusalem, and you see not a unified Israelites/Edomites/Judean desire to over throw Rome, but factionalism within Judea about what constituted a true citizen.
To me, this points to a situation where the sheep were looking (desperately) for their shepherd, the goats were looking desperately to be sheep, and the wolves were happy to support the goats if it kept the peace.
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